Why U.S. Military Needs Taiwan
Image Credit: U.S. Navy

Why U.S. Military Needs Taiwan


U.S. Representative Randy Forbes’s (R-Va) article in The Diplomat last month entitled “America’s Pacific Air-Sea Battle Vision” called upon Congress to support the Pentagon’s vision for Air-Sea Battle – a concept designed to improve the joint and combined ability of air and naval forces to project power in the face of anti-access and area denial challenges. More specifically, Rep. Forbes pointed out that the United States should “work to bring our allies into this effort.” Indeed, in order for the United States to effectively project power in an anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) environment, networked alliances and ad hoc coalition partnerships would be essential in making U.S. power projection in the Asia-Pacific more resilient and responsive to both the internal and external dynamics of the emerging regional security challenges.

To be sure, the United States faces a number of challenges in meeting its security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.  Beyond uncertainty, complexity, and rapid change, challenges include growing resource constraints and an increasingly assertive and capable China. At least one driver for rethinking U.S. defense strategy is the growing ability of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to complicate U.S. ability to project joint power and operate in the Asia-Pacific region. These emerging PLA A2/AD capabilities not only could complicate U.S. ability to operate, but also imperil regional powers’ ability to deny the PLA air superiority and command of the seas.  Anti-access threats, designed to prevent an opposing force from entering an operational area, include long-range precision strike systems that could be employed against bases and moving targets at sea, such as aircraft carrier battle groups. Area denial involves shorter-range actions and capabilities designed to complicate an opposing force’s freedom of action in all domains (i.e., land, air, space, sea and cyber). 

The Pentagon’s Air-Sea Battle and the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) transcends pure operational and roles of services issues to include cooperation with allies and ad hoc coalition partners in the region, which is critical for ensuring the success of Air Sea Battle and assured operational access.  As former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said, Air-Sea Battle is “a prime example of how we need to keep breaking down stovepipes between services, between federal agencies and even between nations.”  He further noted that the Services should “integrate our efforts with each other and with our civilian counterparts” and “work seamlessly with old allies and new friends.”  Air Sea Battle and the broader JOAC shore up deterrence and demonstrate to U.S. allies and partners that Washington is committed and able to resist Chinese military coercion. 

Addressing these challenges requires greater collaboration not only within the U.S. defense establishment, but effective leveraging of talents of allies and ad hoc coalition partners in the region.  The U.S. reportedly has begun examining how to diversify defense relations with traditional allies in the region, such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia.  Yet, little consideration appears to have been given to the significant role that Taiwan could play in an evolving U.S. defense strategy, including the JOAC and Air-Sea Battle.  Taiwan’s future and U.S. interests in regional security are intimately related.  Indeed, Taiwan is a core interest of the United States and has a pivotal role to play as an ad hoc coalition partner in Air-Sea Battle, JOAC, and the strategic rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific.  

First, Taiwan should be the central guiding focus of defense planning in the Asia-Pacific region.  In assessing JOAC and Air-Sea Battle-related requirements, the greatest emphasis should be placed on contingency planning for a PLA amphibious invasion of Taiwan with minimal warning.  Based on a premature and faulty assumption that cross-Strait trade and investment will inevitably lead toward Taiwan’s democratic submission to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authoritarian rule, prominent analysts have asserted that the focus of U.S. defense planning should shift toward the South China Sea and defense of the global commons.

Chris Gant
February 28, 2014 at 19:45

Taiwan is already independent. As far as unification with China in the future, who knows?

April 20, 2013 at 03:28

You think Taiwan does not resent America?

[...] the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been hard at work improving its electronic warfare (EW) capabilities so that it can operate in a complex EW environment, while pointing to signs that China could turn to all-put [...]

June 28, 2012 at 13:52

My family is originally from Taiwan, we don't like Chinese like that.  We are ok with them to a certain extend as long as they don't claim Taiwan is a part of China and that they are human and they are as equal as anyone else .  A lot of Chinese escaped to Taiwan and they don't want to think about China.

June 28, 2012 at 13:48

I think I know why Formosa/Taiwan is called The Heart of Asia…..

Wint Park
April 30, 2012 at 14:17

Restrictions in place for South Korea to develop advanced weapons don’t help the cause.

April 26, 2012 at 17:35

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, Phil Army
From your words I can guees that you are just jealous of China!
I look down upon you.
You dont respect people!
How shame

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, Phil Army
April 26, 2012 at 05:21

The Country of Taiwan served as main base of the Allied United Nation Forces if ever the Chinese Communist will invade the Philippines, Vietnam,Brunei, Cambodia, South Korea,and Malaysia. On strategic perspective the Taiwanese will be a decisive point in wining the war on Chinese communist initiated invasion on Asian Nation and Taiwan will served as Chock point of Allied Forces to stop the Chinese in Hegemony of Ocean that all connecting to WESTERN PHILIPPINE SEA…

April 21, 2012 at 13:42

Quoting “A lot of ROC elites in the KMT and the military still desire future unification with the Mainland and they do not support the idea of strengthening military cooperation with the U.S. This ideological problem may be part of the reason why so many officials in Taiwan’s military and security organizations are willing to spy for the PRC.”
This perceives the worng way for the majority Taiwanese elites and military leaders in regards of thinking the security issues of cross-stait unification with mainland. Many factors influence the dynamic process of cross-strait policy making in terms of geostrategic concerns, cross strait military balance and the internal concensus for the future. All have to take into account with a careful calculaton. In balancing the ends, ways and means for what Taiwan’s military can do, status quo will be the favorable one(actually Taiwan is doing) because it’s safer and enduring. But in reality, one cannnot use “status quo” as an executive strategy since this may upset the mainland. To my argument shorter, Taiwan’s coure of action is mainly buying time to foster the possibility for the mainland to be democratic or peace transformation. I don’t know what you see from my argument that US and Taiwan still have rooms to cooperate in areas of diplomatic and military security arrangement. The question is, what US will do to help advancing Taiwan’s defense capability in the expense of annoying PRC, since US’ military commitment is based on national interests.

April 19, 2012 at 18:30

If China stops buying T bonds, the RMB rises, the USD drops (and exports more). You think China is doing the US a favor?

April 19, 2012 at 18:28

It’s obvious you’ve never seen a single opinion poll conducted in Taiwan about feelings towards the motherland. Far more want independence than reunification, and most want the status quo. Sorry pal.

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